Nota bene: This post is written on the base of very subjective non-researched information, I do not know if I am right or wrong  here, but this is my feeling about the education of Korea vs. The Netherlands. I also generalize Western countries and Asian countries, which I may not be able to at all. Also please be aware of my overexposure to Korea and my underexposure to other Western and Asian countries.

If the Netherlands continues in the way it positions education in its national landscape, it will most definitely lose its power to compete in the globalized world.

Korea University’s facilities
I am sitting in the Korea University Business School right now. It is a building modeled after Harvard Business School in Boston, both from the inside and outside. The classrooms are circular and the professor teaches in the center. A dynamic microphone is positioned above the center which amplifies the voice of the lecturer wherever he chooses to stand in the center. The entire campus is modeled after American universities. It’s mind boggling.


KU Business School


The aesthetic grandeur that is Korea University

There is meeting places for students everywhere. Study halls with the best leather seats and oak tree tables. Just to make the students excel and satisfied. This makes the entire campus looks like a vibrant convergence of young, intellectual and above all ambitious Korean individuals who follow courses, study, have lunch and socialize together.

Aware that just facilities and aesthetics is not what a university makes, being used to the VU University does give me an idea that it does not have to be like that at all.

Private and governmental support


Dutch multi-nationals should take a pro-active role in supporting domestic education

The entire university is supported by private Korean multinationals such as electronics giants LG and Samsung and steel giant Posco. Where is Shell, Unilever, Philips, AkzoNobel and KPMG in terms of academic sponsorships of universities in the Netherlands? They are present but not enough. They should take a nationalistic stand in supporting their younger generation and giving back to their domestic country, the Netherlands. I know for one that they support the Rotterdam School of Management, but what about the other universities.

In addition, the Korean government takes a strong role in making sure education is as best as it can be. In the 1950s, it had one of the most educated labor forces of Asia. Eventhough it suffered from extreme poverty, Korean children went to school and university. Korean tradition puts education on a high pedestal with the people and government. For these reasons, personal educational development rapidly translated into economic prosperity for Korea. A large part of Korea’s success over countries in a similar position of poverty in the 1950s can be traced back to this reason only.

The concrete slab that is VU University

Korean students still lack a lot
Korean students seriously lack in certain areas though. The obvious critique from Western conservatives that do not believe in an economic, financial and cultural shift to the east, is quite true.

Many Korean student’s English is far from good or sufficient. The government’s stand on this is noteworthy; they have dramatically increased English education from kindergarten on (!) by bringing in a huge amount of native speaking English teachers. Often we see Korean children aged from 4 to 6 speaking better English without any accents than ourselves. Incredible to say the least.

They lack a great amount of creative insight as they have been taught to take the content they learn as it is and not challenge it, a possible remain of dictatorial history. Very different from Western education, which is based on Western ideologies like the rennaissance, freedom of speech and democracy where ideas are constantly challenged.

Many Korean students lack the ability to speak up and challenge their professors or fellow students. Western students overpower them in class with ease. Not because the Western students are so dominant, but more because Korean students position themselves so obedient. This is not just my opinion. Korean professors know this, they explicitly instruct Korean students to speak up as it is necessary for them to learn. For the Korean, this is a huge mental and cultural shift, if you consider that Koreans are so polite and humble that they still knod their head low to greet an elderly, and in general do not criticize their elders ever. An elderly can in this even be a week older than them and they still have to respect them, even if this elder’s work is insufficient. I admire this focus on respect and Western culture can learn a lot from this. However, it also obstructs Korean people’s role in a globalized world, in which they will have to participate in meetings with many other cultures that are more direct than them and have to treat people on the basis of the quality of their work, not their age or social status..

The level of education is still lower than most Western universities, or my university. Most courses I take here feel more like they should be offered by a vocational college than an academic research university, with a few notable exceptions ofcourse. I believe this just takes time as Korea has relatively recently become a developed nation. With increasing wealth comes an increasing of level of education.

Sheer ambition
These points that Koreans lack are serious. However, Koreans are too ambitious to let this stop them. They will overcome these faults by sheer amibition and a collective understanding that educating and supporting the young will move a country forward. This ideology translates itself into huge amounts of capital flowing into universities in this country, from the government, as well as multinational corporations.

Taking over Europe and America
Do not underestimate Korea or any other East Asian or South-East Asian country for that matter. They are more than happy to take over Europe and America in education, economy and modern culture in the 21st century and already have it as their masterplan. If you ask me, they will. Western nations: invest now in educating your own people and become a knowledge force to be reckoned with or become the underdog forever.Yes you will lose your jobs, yes you will lose your capital,

Shift your Western country’s mindset on education now to a competitive one that accounts for the modern border-less globalizing world in which individual, private, governmental and national competition will be more fierce than it has even been before.